There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who approve of gimmicks in Major League Baseball and those who don't. And so, it is with such an understanding that The Stew without hesitation supports relief pitcher extraordinaire Mariano Rivera in his bid to play center field for the New York Yankees before he retires from the game forever Sunday in Houston.
While it's not exactly Bill Veeck sending little person Eddie Gaedel up to bat, or ageless Minnie Minoso getting a chance to play in his 11th decade (or whatever), MLB's all-time saves leader playing center for a day sounds like a lot of fun — for everyone.
Rivera has made no secret through the years that one of his fondest baseball dreams is to play center field, just like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers and Bernie Williams did for the Bronx Bombers at one time. Well, maybe not just like them. Maybe more like Stan Jefferson.
The gatekeeper/ringmaster regarding this issue is Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, who has been a saint in dealing with a strange team in the clubhouse and the odd mixed signals from New York's executive branch. Hey, what's one more juggling act in the final days of the circus, now that the Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs?
Girardi might be rolling his eyes on the inside, but he seems open to the possibility, via the New York Daily News:
If [Rivera] does, it probably won’t happen Thursday in the series finale against the Rays, who are leading the wild-card race.
Girardi indicated he wouldn’t change how he handles the lineup, at least on Thursday. “We’ll go day by day. We have a responsibility to baseball (Thursday) and I take that very seriously,” Girardi said.
Rivera has long made a practice of shagging during batting practice, which is how he hurt his knee last season.
Asked about the idea of playing center in Houston, Rivera laughed and said, “We’ll see.”
It's a perk. Not every player would, but Rivera certainly deserves the opportunity to ask. The incident when he hurt his knee gives everyone pause, but there's no way Rivera playing out of position (for one inning, or for nine), will damage the integrity of the game. In fact, it enhances it. Though it can get uncomfortably smug at times, especially with its unwritten rules nonsense, baseball also has a history of taking itself not-so-seriously at the right moment. And, baby, a Yankees-Astros series at Minute Maid Park seems like no better moment for healthy shenanigans.
Girardi would be wise to avoid playing Rivera in center against the Rays, considering the playoff race — unless the game Thursday happens to be a rout. Imagine the buzz the home fans at the Stadium would get if they played "Enter Sandman" and Rivera burst through the bullpen gate and assumed a defensive position in center. What a way to go out.
Most of all, Rivera playing the outfield would be ... fun? Remember fun?
Big BLS H/N: SB Nation